Neuropathy pain and HIV: supplement recommendations

You may have read reports in late February 2012 about the FDA’s skeptic ism about a patch called Qutenza, which had been tested for relief of neuropathy pain in people with HIV. Following a meeting to review the evidence, an FDA panel concluded that Qutenza, whose active ingredient is a synthetic form of capsaicin (the compound that makes chili peppers hot) was not effective for HIV-related neuropathy pain.

The FDA’s finding on Qutenza reminds us again that neuropathy (generally, pain or tingling in the extremities) continues to be one of the most troublesome effects of HIV/AIDS and/or its treatment—and one of the most difficult to manage. According to a survey report in 2010, for example, more than one third of those on combination antiretroviral therapy for HIV do experience neuropathy, leading to lower quality of life and often disability. So, it may be worthwhile to repeat some of NYBC’s recommendations on this topic:

Peripheral neuropathy: “nukes” (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) such mas ddI (Videx), and d4T (stavudine/ Zerit) – and Indinavir, T20, and even 3TC (Epivir)may all cause this feeling of pins and needles or numbness to toes and fingers. It can travel up the legs and become debilitating. HIV, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and vitamin deficiencies can all be causes of peripheral neuropathy. Supplements that are “good for your nerves” and that have the most robust data include acetylcarnitine (1-3 grams/ day, quite well studied for peripheral neuropathy) and alpha lipoic acid (200-600 mg/day). Other agents that can help are Vitamin B12, biotin, lecithin, magnesium, borage oil, evening primrose oil, choline and inositol.

See the NYBC website for more details about these supplements:
http://nybcsecure.org/

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Acetyl-L-carnitine for diabetic neuropathy

Below we give the abstract of a recent (2005) assessment of acetyl-l-carnitine’s effectiveness in the management of neuropathy (tingling, pain due to nerve damage) in people with diabetes.

For additional information on the use of this nutrient for neuropathy and other conditions, see the NYBC entry on Acetylcarnitine.


Acetyl-L-Carnitine Improves Pain, Nerve Regeneration, and Vibratory Perception in Patients With Chronic Diabetic Neuropathy: An analysis of two randomized placebo-controlled trials

Anders A.F. Sima, MD, PHD, Menotti Calvani, MD, Munish Mehra, PHD and Antonino Amato, MD

OBJECTIVE—We evaluated frozen databases from two 52-week randomized placebo-controlled clinical diabetic neuropathy trials testing two doses of acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC): 500 and 1,000 mg/day t.i.d. [tid = 3 times per day]

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Intention-to-treat patients amounted to 1,257 or 93% of enrolled patients. Efficacy end points were sural nerve morphometry, nerve conduction velocities, vibration perception thresholds, clinical symptom scores, and a visual analogue scale for most bothersome symptom, most notably pain. The two studies were evaluated separately and combined.

RESULTS—Data showed significant improvements in sural nerve fiber numbers and regenerating nerve fiber clusters. Nerve conduction velocities and amplitudes did not improve, whereas vibration perception improved in both studies. Pain as the most bothersome symptom showed significant improvement in one study and in the combined cohort taking 1,000 mg ALC.

CONCLUSIONS—These studies demonstrate that ALC treatment is efficacious in alleviating symptoms, particularly pain, and improves nerve fiber regeneration and vibration perception in patients with established diabetic neuropathy.

Citation: Diabetes Care 28:89-94, 2005